These leading lights in the fields of physical activity and healthy lifestyles have shared their expertise and motivational tips with over 200 delegates at the recent Hampshire Schools’ Health and Wellbeing Conference - organised by Hampshire County Council’s Outdoor Education, PE and Duke of Edinburgh’s (DoE) Award Service.
At the conference, Executive Member for Education, Councillor Peter Edgar, said: “Good health and fitness is absolutely critical to young people’s wellbeing, and contributes significantly to their ability to learn. The time they spend at school offers a prime opportunity to influence their lifestyle choices, and their understanding of healthy living. Through events such as this fantastic conference, we aim to support schools in helping children make the right choices, and develop positive behaviours. This extends to providing opportunities for them to enjoy more sport, eat better and develop healthier lifestyles.
“I’m proud that we can offer school leaders and specialists the chance to attend such an inspiring event. It is great to see them making time to attend and, from the conversations I’ve had with many of them, it’s clear they value the opportunity to learn, to plan and to prioritise this fundamental issue that underpins children’s learning.”
The conference, at the Ageas Bowl, included keynote speeches from Dr Dawn Harper, GP and TV presenter of ‘Embarrassing Bodies’, and Ali Oliver, the Chief Executive of the Youth Sport Trust, a national charity supporting physical education.
Sally Gunnell OBE, former Olympic Gold medal-winning track athlete, gave an address and compered the event, which included a number of workshops focusing on different aspects of health and physical activity, as well as displays and information from relevant organisations.
In her speech, Dr Harper said: “I’m really pleased to be a part of this conference. Getting schools together like this is such an important thing to do. One in three children is overweight or obese by Year 6, and children are eating three times as much sugar as they should. They also don’t get enough exercise – partly because we as adults are not setting a good example. Some 40% of British adults don’t do 10 consecutive minutes of brisk walking in a month; but children need good role models in this area. School leaders and teachers have a wonderful opportunity to help change things.”
Ali Oliver, said: “To have so many practitioners, professionals and decision makers in one room, and to be able to speak to them all about this important work, is a privilege. Being physically and mentally healthy is so important to young people’s performance in the classroom. For this generation, being ‘well-educated’ is about being well enough to learn and educated to stay well. PE is a vitally important component of education - physical activity improves cognitive performance and through sport young people develop life and employability skills, this means when they move on from school, they’re well enough to achieve their potential in life.”
Sally Gunnell OBE said: “Sport has taught me so much, and it has a lot to teach our young people. Sport teaches you to work with people; to focus on what you want to achieve, and work towards your goals; to cope when things go wrong; also to challenge yourself, step out of your comfort zone, and try new things. It’s so important that we encourage young people to get involved in sport. Thisconference has been inspiring for me; I hope teachers will go away inspired too.”
Jo Walker, Headteacher of Poulner Junior School in Ringwood, said: “The conference didn't shy away from the major issues that we face as a society, but at the same time I left feeling motivated, and inspired that the work we are doing with young people and their families will make a difference. Also the quality and calibre of the speakers was excellent. A great conference!”
The Outdoor Education, PE and DofE Service is used by more than 1,000 local schools for services including teacher training, equipment hire, and provision of off-site activities, such as adventure sports and nature study. The service organises a conference for schools every year.